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The Supervisory Referral

Supervisors play an important role in assisting employees with performance problems; they clarify work expectations; give feedback when performance slips, as well as when it is satisfactory or better; coach as employees are needing to learn new tasks or to improve in performing acquired skills. Supervisors also play an important role in assisting employees by recognizing that performance problems can be related to a personal or work concern.

When an employee’s performance declines, or needs improvement, talking with the employee will usually be sufficient in reversing the decline, or fostering improvement. However, some employees do not respond to this and fail to change their performance for the better.

It is important for the employee and the supervisor to understand that unsatisfactory job performance is the primary concern and the end goal is to encourage the employee to improve work performance. When the supervisor is aware that work performance has slipped due to personal problems, he or she may want to offer information about resources available to the employee. The employee is as important as the job he or she performs.

However, a supervisor may not know the employee is experiencing personal problems, when work performance declines. Whether the supervisor knows the reasons for the performance decline or not, suggesting the employee avail him/herself of resources at the university if they so desire, is appropriate. The Counseling, Assistance and Referral Services (CARS) is one of these resources. It is not appropriate however, to coerce, threaten, or demand that an employee seek assistance at CARS. It is also not appropriate to discourage an employee who states that they want to go to CARS, from trying to obtain services at CARS. Seeking assistance or services at CARS is voluntary and the focus is on encouraging personal and professional development.

In addition, employees are allowed work time to attend CARS without using accumulated annual or sick leave. Whether or not the employee chooses to utilize CARS, disciplinary action and/or corrective action on the part of the supervisor will follow, if work performance does not improve on a timely basis.

Supervisors do not need to know a great deal about emotional disorders, alcohol and other drug abuse, or medicine. It is important, however, to be able to identify employees who are troubled and be able to intervene appropriately. It is also important when making a supervisory referral that the supervisor does not imply in any way that they think the employee is disabled, mentally ill, or needs counseling. It is important to stay focused on objective, work-performance issues and if referring to CARS, that the referral be based on job performance decline. Be aware that when the issue is of impairment at work, there is a APPM policy (Suspected Impairment at Work - #3720) that governs these situations and the policy itself has a step-by-step procedure that is very helpful.

Obtaining services at CARS is confidential and supervisors will not receive any information about whether an employee utilizes the services, unless the employee gives written permission, usually by signing a release of information form. In some cases, supervisors may request that attendance at appointments be confirmed. Again, this is only done if the employee signs a release of information giving CARS permission to do this.

It is important for supervisors to remember that resolving personal issues takes time. CARS staff recognize that an employee’s productivity on the job is important and interventions take that into consideration. The employee’s health and well-being is important too and there is research-based evidence that employee assistance programs like CARS help employees take care of their health that results in increased productivity and other benefits in the workplace. You can contact CARS at 272-6868 (Refer to the CARS Brochure for further information).

CARS also offers Supervisory Consultation services to managers and supervisors that are dealing with employees who are having problems that are impacting work performance.

Regardless of our positions in the University, we face a variety of issues in our daily lives at work and/or at home. Usually, we can work them out. When help is needed, the Counseling Assistance and Referral Services UNM’s Faculty and Staff Assistance is available to you.


CARS is a free and confidential service for all benefits-eligible UNM faculty and staff.

Weekdays 8 AM to Noon, 1-5 PM

Physical Address
1800 Mesa Vista Road NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106